Humphrey, Alexander can hit the ground running at Capitol.
Today's endorsements for candidates in the Aug. 14 primary feature two metro-area DFL legislative contests in districts in which that party is the lopsided favorite in November.
Senate District 67: Robert Humphrey
St. Paul's economically battered East Side badly needs forceful, sustained representation at the state Capitol. That's why the Senate retirement of former St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington after only one term was a disappointment. Voters would do well to replace him with someone able to make an immediate impact.
Robert Humphrey, 42, best fills that bill. The Hibbing native's entire career has been spent in and around government, first as a legislative aide to St. Paul Rep. Tim Mahoney and Virginia Rep. Tom Rukavina, then as assistant to the director of the St. Paul Safety and Inspections Department.
Humphrey understands the connections between state and local governments and the struggling neighborhoods in District 67. He speaks pragmatically about the role all levels of government and other community institutions can play in spurring job growth. He also has the people skills to serve as a trusted broker among stakeholders in East Side development. The state AFL-CIO is among eight unions backing his candidacy.
The other two candidates in the contest are also committed to public service. Foung Hawj, 46, is an independent videomaker making his second try for the Senate. He would be a strong voice for the district's large Hmong community that has been lacking at the Legislature since Sen. Mee Moua and Rep. Cy Thao retired in 2010. But his vision seems confined to his immediate neighborhood.
Tom Dimond, 62, served two terms on the St. Paul City Council 25 years ago, and has stayed involved in civic and environmental activism since. He's arguably the race's most liberal candidate, and was willing to take on Harrington this year for party endorsement before Harrington decided to retire. He succeeded in blocking Harrington's endorsement, but also in raising questions about his political impatience.
We find less to question about Humphrey's candidacy, and think voters will, too.
House District 59B: Ian Alexander
A primary situation similar to District 67 exists in downtown Minneapolis, Bryn Mawr and the near North Side, all encompassed in the newly drawn House District 59B. Three candidates, all gifted and committed to community service, are running hard for a seat being vacated by Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, now running for the state Senate.
Narrowly, we prefer attorney and city Civil Rights Department investigator Ian Alexander over design consultant Raymond Dehn and former Hennepin County planning analyst Terra Cole. While Dehn and Cole can claim deeper roots in the district, Alexander seems more immediately able to be a persuasive advocate for a district whose fortunes affect the entire region.
A native of New York City and a graduate of both the University of Minnesota Law School and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Alexander, 35, worked on economic development for the governor of Maryland before moving to Minnesota. Alone among the three, he would have supported this year's bill for a new Vikings stadium, which will sit in District 59B.
He's a relatively recent convert to the DFL, something some critics count as a negative. We see it otherwise. When he says "the Republican Party refuses to listen to the facts" about investments in public safety and infrastructure, the message carries extra punch.
Voters may hear Alexander's critics trying to make hay this week over expense omissions in his campaign finance reports. Campaign Finance Board Director Gary Goldsmith says the problem was caused by a software-related error, and is being remedied. "There's nothing to suggest intentional effort to avoid disclosure," he said.
Cole and Dehn also would bring assets to the Legislature. Cole, 34, is another Humphrey School grad, and a political comer. She understands well the importance of strong personal relationships to legislative effectiveness.
Dehn, 54, would bring a desirable perspective to lawmaking, particularly concerning criminal justice. He rebuilt his life after imprisonment for a nonviolent crime as a young adult. He's a role model in a district that's home to a disproportionately large share of former felons.
DFL voters in District 59B face a difficult choice, but they can't go far wrong with any of these three.
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